My brother just finished his doctorate in Spanish Literature and right now he's scraping out a living as an Assistant Professor in some god-forsaken (or infested, depending on how you look at it) town in rural South Carolina where you have to drive 17 miles to go to a Shoney's. His male students are athletes and his female students were heavily influenced by the Spice Girls and Paris Hilton...and not ironically ("Whaaat?"). Let's generalize, shall we?
For those of you who just landed, I used to be Mormon. My brother, despite his high level of intelligence, still is (comments are welcome!). Unlike me, my brother was not the hairshirt-wearing-fascist-masochist-type Mormon that I was [see footnote 1]. He swore, he watched rated "R" movies, he skipped church sometimes, and he didn't tape moments of silence over the swear words in his Pearl Jam records. This, and the inherent patriarchy of the church (really, comments are welcome!) are, in my opinion, why he's still Elder Williams and I'm drinking coffee and beer MIXED TOGETHER. [Please see footnote 2].
Mac's post is interesting because he describes the epiphany he had on his mission where he realized that, although he thought he wasn't judging people, he was, and that there are a variety of ways to be ethical and moral in the world. One testament to his character and his intelligence (take note, there are only about four) is that, on his mission, he questioned whether or not the way he had chosen was best. That's pretty damn brave of him.
The point of his post is that if one has a set of values, or teaches one's children a set of values, those values are weak if one cannot participate in the world. In other words, conservative Christians who seek to isolate their children because they're afraid of the "bad" influence of society are really insecure about their values to begin with. I agree...BUT if I had a daughter reared on Our Bodies, Ourselves and whole grains, I'd fear for her safety if I put her in public school in Cherokee County, Georgia.
Our Mom and Dad (or Mama and Daddy, depending on how much I miss them) were big into values and ethics and morals. If our domestic scene were a play, the overall tone would be "self-righteous." And this was the case even before we converted. I believe part of the reason my Dad took so well to Mormonism [see footnote 3] was because of the impeccable moral structure [see footnote 4] and clear, well-defined codes of what is right and wrong. It's like the Jenny Craig diet where they give you all the food and help you along and, like the Jenny Craig diet, IT WORKS! I'm not being a sarcastic asshole here; if one wants to "get religion" (i.e. find purpose in one's life) and, especially, if one wants to orient one's life around the family, the Mormon church is excellent.
I agree with my brother. I agree that there are a variety of ways to live morally in the world. One of these, as shown especially well by my brother, is the Mormon church. Another one is showing kindness toward your friends by following this recipe:
* One pint Guinness Lager
* One shot espresso
* One scoop chocolate ice cream
Blend. Pour into a pint glass. Serve on tray with a Nat Sherman and a copy of The Delta of Venus. It takes all kinds.
* * *
[Footnote 2] I should say here that our family converted to the church, staggeringly, between 1990-1994. I hold that those who were raised Mormon have different reasons for staying/leaving (such as, oh, belief). If you don't think I respect that, please reread this post.
[Footnote 3] I'm writing for the non-LDS person here. Mormons don't call themselves "Mormons." They call themselves "LDS," which is short for "Latter-day Saint" which comes from the name of the church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
[Footnote 4] A definite case can be made against an "impeccable moral structure" in the church if one looks at the church's historical relationship (as opposed to its present-day one) with African-Americans. Also, one could argue that the church privileges men. However, one can also argue that church doctrine itself (as opposed to the people in the church) is not sexist and, in fact, privileges women. I'm on the slightly-disturbed-about-everything-concerning-Brigham-Young bandwagon (comments welcome!). Also, several people I know would never call anyone who knocks at their door wanting to convert them "moral." I don't agree or disagree.